Nigerian gospel singer’s death sheds light on divorce beliefs | Nigeria

Most Sunday mornings, the searing voice of Osinachi Nwachukwu, one of Nigeria’s best-known gospel singers, filled the vast 100,000-seat auditorium of her church in Abuja.

Footage from one of the last times she led the choir at Dunamis International Gospel Center showed her singing the 2017 gospel hit Ekwueme with her eyes closed and her hand outstretched in prayer.

On April 8, the 42-year-old died in a hospital in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Her husband and manager, Peter Nwachukwu, a pastor, said she was suffering from an undisclosed illness, but in the days that followed, family members and friends claimed she had died of complications. injuries sustained as a result of domestic violence.

His four children told Nigerian authorities that Nwachukwu had suffered constant abuse at the hands of their father, who they said had sworn them to secrecy. People who knew the couple portrayed Peter Nwachukwu as a commanding figure, controlling their finances and decisions.

On April 11, police arrested Peter Nwachukwu and said they were awaiting autopsy results to help determine the cause of death. He denied all allegations of abuse, telling police he was not responsible for his wife’s death.

The entrance to the Dunamis International Gospel Center in Abuja. Photography: Emmanuel Akinwotu

Allegations around Nwachukwu’s death have sent shockwaves through Nigeria’s Christian communities and wider society, raising questions about gender-based violence and the extent to which religious teachings and societal values ​​condemn the divorce, regardless of the circumstances.

“There are tips and stories that church leaders need to reevaluate,” Sandra Ijeoma Okoye wrote in an opinion column for the Nigerian Voice last month. “Advice and narratives that seem logical and sensible on the surface cover domestic violence and the objectification of women as property.”

In media interviews and social media posts, relatives and friends said they begged Nwachukwu to leave her husband, but she resisted, saying it was a sin and insisting he would change. . “She felt God was against divorce,” her sister Favor Made told local media last month. “We told her the separation is not a sin but just to keep her alive.”

According to his family, Nwachukwu was receiving medical treatment for several weeks before his death. They allege that on one occasion doctors found clumps of blood around her chest after she was punched.

People who knew Nwachukwu from Nigeria’s gospel music scene described her as tender and unassuming – a rare trait in the industry. Sunny Pee, a producer who has worked with Nwachukwu since 2017, said she was a “beautiful soul”. On learning of her death, he declared: “I had to go up to my room. Close my door. My wife was there. And I cried, I cried like a baby.

Pee accused Peter Nwachukwu of being an aggressive and violent character. “The last time I spoke to Mr. Nwachukwu was in March last year and I said to him: ‘One day you are going to kill this woman. You are going to kill her if you continue like this,” Pee said.

A service at Dunamis International Gospel Center on Sunday, May 1.
A service at Dunamis International Gospel Center on Sunday, May 1. Photography: Emmanuel Akinwotu (check if wants credit or not)

People who knew church leaders said senior officials had been warned not to speak to the media, amid increased attention to church teaching on divorce and what senior figures of the church knew, if at all, about the alleged abuses.

In a Twitter post from three years ago, Paul Enenche, the church’s founder, spoke out against domestic violence, writing, “Better to be alive without marriage than to be killed before death. hour because you are married.

Another message from the same year reflected the church’s teachings on marriage. “Submission is not slavery but service,” Enenche wrote. “Stop answering your husband; rather speak for your husband. A message from his wife, Becky Paul-Enenche, also from 2019, said, “Never make divorce an option. The stress you put on your children can affect them for the rest of their lives.

In a broadcast last month, Enenche denied knowing of any alleged abuse suffered by Nwachukwu up until his death.

On the first Sunday in May, hordes of worshipers flocked to the Dunamis International Gospel Centre. “I’m ashamed it looks like they’re trying to sweep this away [Nwachukwu’s death] under the rug, says a devotee called Honest, who has been dating Dunamis for three years.

Ikaraoha Chinwe, another Dunamis member, said she would miss hearing Nwachukwu’s voice in church. “Whatever she’s going through, you wouldn’t see it on her face,” she said. “When she sang, it was as if the Holy Spirit had descended.”

Ehizogie Ohiani contributed reporting

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